(Adds comment from company spokeswoman and production forecast for Moa from quarterly results)
By Susan Taylor
TORONTO, Nov 23 (Reuters) - Four workers at a Sherritt International Corp joint venture in Cuba died on Tuesday, when a municipal bridge they were repairing collapsed, the Canadian miner said on Wednesday.
Sherritt, which owns 50 percent of the Moa nickel operation with General Nickel Company SA of Cuba, said the bridge had been damaged by Hurricane Matthew in October and workers have been repairing the structure since late last month. The bridge provides access to the Moa mine and plant, which are operating at reduced rates, the company said.
The impact on production will depend on how quickly a secondary access route to the mine operation can be put into place, Sherritt said. The Toronto-based company expects to announce more information in coming days.
The bridge crosses a shallow river and is the main access from the local town and port of Moa to the mine site and an acid leach plant. An investigation into the accident was under way, Sherritt said, adding that the last reported fatality at Moa was a decade ago.
Sherritt workers were repairing the municipal bridge as part of the company’s emergency relief following Hurricane Matthew, said a spokeswoman, adding that infrastructure project support benefits both the mine operation and surrounding communities.
In late October, the company said that full-year finished nickel production at Moa was expected to be in the lower end of its forecast range, of 33,500-34,500 tonnes, after it shut down operations in advance of the hurricane.
The storm had a relatively minor impact on production, it added, causing no injuries or fatalities..
In a recent interview, the company said that Moa would return to profit next year if prices for the metal remained at current levels.
Chief Executive David Pathe said prices, which have risen some 20 percent this year from multiyear lows, could even improve given that global nickel supplies were expected to swing into a deficit.
Pathe expected little if any profit from Sherritt’s Cuban nickel business in 2016 but forecast $50 million to $70 million in earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) from its Cuban oil and power ventures.
Nickel is essential in the production of stainless steel and other corrosion-resistant alloys. Beyond its Cuba venture, Sherritt has a stake in a large Madagascar nickel mine.
The Canadian company has been operating in Cuba for more than two decades. (With additional reporting by Nicole Mordant in Vancouver,; Editing by Steve Orlofsky and Jonathan Oatis)